Ever wonder what happens at your favorite bar before it opens for the evening? For some Boston-area venues, you don’t have to wonder anymore.
A bevy of joints that have opened in the last year or so have decided to do more than 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. They are operating as cafes during the day before they transition into a more traditional restaurant — or in several cases, breweries — at night.
The opportunity to fill two voids
It makes sense. Owners are paying for rent all day, so they might as well keep their businesses open for as much time as possible to maximize profits.
But it seems that for some local businesses that have joined in on the trend — such as Winter Hill Brewing in Somerville, Brassica Kitchen + Cafe in Jamaica Plain, the forthcoming Lamplighter Brewing in Cambridge, Coppersmith in South Boston, Deadhorse Hill in Worcester, Loyal Nine in Cambridge, Lock 50 in Worcester, and Juliet in Somerville — operating a cafe during the day is more than just for some extra dough.
"We love great beer and great coffee!" said Jeff Rowe, Winter Hill Brewing’s co-owner. "We thought there was a need in the neighborhood for both concepts, which we believe are related in nature." Winter Hill Brewing opened up in Somerville in March, serving up Counter Culture Coffee during the day and house-made craft beers at night. "We think the most positive attribute has been the opportunity to fill two neighborhood voids," Rowe added.
Juliet/Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater
Other owners of these combination restaurant-cafes are similarly enthusiastic about adding a multi-purpose, open-all-day spot to neighborhoods that are bustling throughout the day.
"The biggest benefit, and the reason we enjoy doing both, is being able to provide customers our offerings 16 hours a day," said Tom Studer, general manager at Lock 50 in Worcester. Lock 50 opened this past April with coffee from Equal Exchange Coffee Roasters, along with breakfast and lunch food. Dinner, which includes small plates and shareable plates, begins at 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., depending on the day.
"They can come in the morning for a coffee and come back for dinner and a cocktail," Studer said. "On the flip side of that, you are also able to reach everyone: Some customers may work at night and can’t get in for dinner, so they come for breakfast or lunch. We are still able to attract everyone who wants to be here, and that’s a pretty cool feeling."
Reaching everyone in the community, regardless of schedule
Likewise, South Boston’s Coppersmith aims to provide a community space that’s open for as many hours as possible. "The Coppersmith Cafe concept was born out of the idea to create this unique ‘Third Space’ within the restaurant and foodservice community," said Rachel Hinchliffe, one of the owners of Coppersmith. "A multi-faceted venue that guests, neighbors, and residents can visit from early morning to late into the night in a number of capacities. We liked the idea of a cafe because coffee shop culture creates that authentic, neighborhood-centric vibe we strive to deliver and felt like a natural addition to the restaurant and bar, especially in a tight-knit community like south Boston."
How does this division of labor actually work? At some of the businesses, including Winter Hill Brewing and Lock 50, there are separate barista shifts and brewery shifts.
"The key to making this work is to have two cohesive teams," Studer said. "A day team that works the café and a night team that works the restaurant. Both teams are slightly cross-trained and have a good appreciation for each other’s responsibilities and tasks."
He added that they are treated as two separate teams, though their hours do overlap. They also keep a barista on call at night so that people get the same quality coffee at night as they did in the morning.
Coppersmith/Katie Chudy for Eater
Lamplighter, a brewery which is coming to Cambridge soon, will also have two separate staffs. But their situation is a little different, as they partnered with a different business, Longfellows Cambridge, to handle the cafe part of the project, serving up cold brew coffee and waffles in the morning hours.
"They are handling any and all coffee program-related things, so it really doesn’t add much to our plate," said Lamplighter co-owner Cayla Marvil. "The Lamplighter team is still focused on brewing and serving delicious beer, and we get the added benefit of drinking coffee as we do it. Obviously there’s some coordination with hours, staff, equipment, etc. but we’re all friends and the relationship is quite flexible and amiable, so we have the best possible situation with this sort of space sharing."
In the Lamplighter/Longfellows case, they even plan on overlapping their staffs for three hours, but they will have distinct spaces in the brewery for each business.
All in, all together
"We each have dedicated areas for service, equipment, etc., separate POS systems, and pretty clear instructions on who’s allowed to touch what and go where," Marvil said.
At other local spots, there’s just one staff, where everybody does everything.
"We’re all one and the same," said Daniel Myers, co-owner of Cambridge’s Loyal Nine. "Baristas who would traditionally work only days also work the restaurant. Our line cooks and sous chefs have all done morning bake-offs. We’re all in, all together."
Loyal Nine opened its restaurant in March 2015 and its cafe a few days later. The spaces are adjacent but somewhat separate, although cafe customers can also sit in the restaurant. The cafe serves a small breakfast and lunch menu in addition to beverages and pastries.
Loyal Nine/Dennis Breyt for Loyal Nine
Some spaces are kept even more distinct, such as at Deadhorse Hill, which opened in May in Worcester as a restaurant by night and cafe during the day, serving fresh pastries, sandwiches, coffees, and teas.
"Our transition is made easier by the natural separation of our physical space," said Deadhorse Hill chef and co-owner Jared Forman. "We move our host stand to be used as a dairy counter. The cafe tables are replaced by dinner tables and chairs for overflow and private events. Our dining room is on the other side of the room, which is the focus for dinnertime."
Juliet in Somerville also undergoes a more formal transition from cafe to restaurant, although there aren’t separate sections in the small space. During the day, most guests order cafe items, breakfast, and lunch at the counter and then take them to go or grab a table. There are some full-service seats for those who want a more involved breakfast or lunch. But by night, the space becomes completely full-service, with a la carte options as well as a tasting menu.
Be ready to serve at all times
"We have some who are more dedicated to daytime hours and some to evening," said Josh Lewin, chef and co-owner at Juliet. "But they aren't really separate. The training encompasses both. For that matter we have a goal of really breaking down the division between kitchen and service staff as well. We aren't quite there yet, but we do have a lot of crossover. It's a very collaborative staff between front and back but also day and night."
Unlike many of the other restaurants, Juliet also takes a few hours between lunch and dinner in order to "turn over the dining room" for dinner, although potential customers won’t be turned away in the middle.
"During that time, we don't stop serving completely," Lewin said. "In our business plan, the words ‘keep the door unlocked and be ready to serve at all times’ are repeated regularly. From the moment that lock turns over in the morning to the minute the last dinner check is paid, there is something to be had at Juliet."